2016 Virginia Festival of the Book

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The 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book is March 16-20 in Charlottesville. This is a great event for all stripes of writers, authors and readers. Find out more at VaBook.org.

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A Free Service to Help Writers and Their Books

By Dan Smith
Director of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference

My old friend and colleague Darrell Laurant, the retired journalist-turned author-turned writing magnate, is starting a free service aimed at authors who are having difficulty getting exposure for their books. This is something Darrell is good at. He was the founder of the late Writers Bridge, which helped get writers of all stripes jobs in their craft.

Did I mention the new service is FREE?

He had to disband WB when he moved to New York after retiring as an award-winning metro columnist (25 years) for the Lynchburg News-Advance. He had previously founded the Sedalia Writers Conference in Bedford County (on which the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference is based) and was a regular teacher at RRWC for several years. He’s always been there for writers.

His new venture is “Snowflakes in a Blizzard” (here), a free service for authors, which “arose out of my experiences trying to market [his new novel] The Kudzu Kid,” he wrote me in an e-mail the other day.

Darrell goes on: “As you know, the game has changed. With more than 12 million books (one and a half times the population of New York City) on Amazon, it’s not about getting published any more — given the advances in technology, anyone who really wants to can do that. It’s now about getting noticed.

“Very quickly, I realized that there was absolutely no reason why someone would randomly pick my book up off a shelf, or click on its Amazon page. The vast majority of people in the world have no idea who I am, and our tendency is always to go with what we know when money is involved. I get that.

“A fact that a lot of writers seem to miss (or ignore) is this: Everybody isn’t going to like, or be interested in, their books. .. Trying to market to everybody is a waste of time and a recipe for frustration. … The blog will run twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, I’ll take a single book — I accept both fiction and non-fiction — lift it out of the blizzard of books surrounding it, and give the author some ‘alone’ time with visitors to the blog.

The template we use is extensive, the idea being to allow the authors a chance to convey the background behind the book and about themselves. I send press releases to all the print media in the authors’ area about two weeks out, and e-mail a preview blurb to the blog followers a couple of days before that book appears.”I screen these books, because our collective credibility depends on it. I’m also looking for work that is different — I wouldn’t automatically reject a vampire tale or romance novel or serial killer epic, but I’d want the approach to that subject to be unique. … Every author is asked to send e-mails to friends, relatives, fellow writers, etc., announcing that he or she will be featured, and so each person will theoretically draw a different audience.

“Once we get up to 1,000 or followers, which I truly believe will happen quickly, media outlets will start printing those press releases instead of deleting them. Moreover, I can ask an indy bookstore in that author’s area to carry copies of that book, on consignment, for a month after the author is featured. In return for giving that book something of a prominent place in the store, I will run a brief article about that bookstore on the blog.”

Darrell believes word will spread quickly: “Getting what I call ‘micro-publicity’ for books is good for writers, bookstores and publishers — even Amazon. Meanwhile, other publicists can use it as just another arrow in their quiver.”

If you have a book out there, it’s probably struggling from a sales standpoint, because almost all do. Maybe Darrell can help.

My Author Appearance at Virginia Festival of the Book

VAI will be at the Virginia Festival of the Book on Thursday, March 19 (tomorrow), in Charlottesville. I will be on a panel with three other sports authors, talking about my most recent book, DRAW IN THE DUNES: The 1969 Ryder Cup and the Finish That Shocked the World.

I attended last year and spoke about my first book, THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open. I had a great time.

I have finalized my reading selection. I am going to read a short section that illustrates how team members feel about playing in the Ryder Cup, especially at the opening ceremony and right before they tee off. It will include an anecdote about U.S. foursomes partners Raymond Floyd and Miller Barber, and how Barber, who was supposed to hit first (the opening shot of the 1969 Ryder Cup), couldn’t do it. (Portions of pages 128-131.)

If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.

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Face The Nation (VIDEO): Laura Hillenbrand, the Amazing Stay-at-Home Author

Bob Schieffer, host of “Face The Nation,” recently interviewed author Laura Hillenbrand about her unusual working methods due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Hillenbrand has written two books, Seabiscuit and Unbroken, both of them bestsellers.

Not only is Hillenbrand talented and dedicated, she is incredibly courageous. She shows us that it’s possible to find, research, write and publish compelling stories from the confines of home.

Media Connect Q&A With Rob Kirkpatrick (My Editor)

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Rob Kirkpatrick.

My editor, Rob Kirkpatrick of Thomas Dunne Books (a part of St. Martin’s Press), was interviewed by MEDIA CONNECT in November. It was interesting to read his thoughts on being an editor and the publishing industry.

Following are a couple of takeaways from that Q&A.

MC: As an acquiring editor do you look at the author’s work or platform first?
RK: Absolutely, especially as I acquire primarily nonfiction. I remember a proposal I received several years ago for a book from an author whose most recent book had sold quite modestly. I would have needed a way to position the author and his next book more effectively. The proposal neglected to mention what the author did for a living, so I inquired. The agent, an experienced one, asked me, “Why do you need to know?” That response floored me and still does. An author’s profession and platform are always relevant when trying to plan how to publish his or her book.

MC: What advice do you have for young writers today?
RK: Write because you are passionate about something and feel you have a compelling story to tell and a unique voice with which to tell it. That is all. If you want to become a writer because you think it sounds glamorous or because you’ve heard about the millions of copies this or that bestselling authors has sold, you will most likely be disappointed.

Rob is a great editor. He is low key and encouraging, two attributes that are beneficial to any writer tasked with birthing and promoting a book. I was extremely fortunate he acquired and edited my first book, as well as my second book.

The Atlantic: Anatomy of Two Bestsellers

In “How to Make a Bestselling Book” at TheAtlantic.com, literary agent Howard Yoon makes a case for traditional publishing and why it’s still relevant. Yoon cites two authors (both are his clients), and how their book projects became New York Times bestsellers.

Yoon provides the blow-by-blow account of the authors and their paths to the bestseller list, explaining how they “needed the skills of an entire team of publishing professionals to help them on their publishing journey.”

An opening excerpt:

As imperfect as our business is, anyone who wants to write a book of lasting value, a book that can change the way people think about the world, a book that can get national and possibly global distribution in real hard copies, knows that the traditional publishing path is still the best path to take.

Yoon introduces clients Dan Schulman and Dana Goldstein and details their projects.

A closing excerpt:

People always seem surprised when I tell them the publishing business is doing just fine. They expect me to share tales of woe and misery—and incompetence. I remain optimistic. For every forgettable snarky Facebook rant, for every counterintuitive, impermanent let-me-explain-the-world-to-you thought piece, for every formulaic superhero movie or sitcom, there grows a place in the hearts of thoughtful readers out there for works by writers like Dan and Dana.

My Author Appearance at National Press Club Book Fair

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National Press Club Book Fair.

I’m honored and excited to be an invited author for the 37th Annual National Press Club Book Fair & Authors’ Night next Tuesday (November 18) in Washington, D.C. There are a lot of famous authors on the list. And one much lesser-known one from Floyd, Virginia. Occasionally, the door cracks open and you get to see what it’s like to be on the inside.

Here’s the scoop from The National Press Club:

The Capitol region’s premiere holiday book event is back for the 37th year! The National Press Club Journalism Institute is once again partnering with landmark local book seller Politics & Prose for a night of pols, pundits and prose.

Authors will be on hand to talk to their fans and sign books at this most exciting literary event. Patrons can browse for books at the Club’s headquarters at 529 14th Street NW from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Save time and pre-order your tickets below. Tickets will also be available at the door.

The Book Fair is a fundraiser for The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, which advances journalistic practice by equipping professionals with the skills and competence to innovate, leveraging emerging trends, recognizing leaders and innovators, and mentoring the next generation of journalism and communications professionals. The Book Fair also supports the Club’s beautifully renovated Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library, which provides research and resources for news professionals.